McGuinty to defend his budget in the north – by Maria Babbage (National Post – June 23, 2012)

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“I wish we had a few more Sudburys around the province,” Mr. McGuinty said.
“Frankly, you’re doing so well and experiencing so much growth. So we’ll ask
ourselves what can we learn from the examples that are right in front of our
eyes here in Sudbury.”

SUDBURY – Premier Dalton McGuinty is in for a bumpy ride in northern Ontario this weekend in spite of his attempts to smooth over the budget crisis that pushed the province to the brink of an election, critics say.

Now that the budget has passed and an election is averted, Mr. McGuinty will have to appease northerners who are angry that he’s privatizing Ontario Northland rail service after promising not to do so, the New Democrats say.

He’ll also have to explain why his budget doesn’t do much to create jobs in the north, which has lost 9,000 jobs since the Oct. 6 election and where the unemployment rate is the highest in the province at 10.4%, said the Progressive Conservatives.

“The premier is here in northern Ontario where this budget did absolutely nothing for the 60 mills that are closed, the 10,000 resource-sector jobs that we lost, the skyrocketing hydro rates that caused Xstrata Copper to move from Timmins to Quebec and shed 670 jobs in a community of 45,000,” said Vic Fedeli, the party’s energy critic.

But Mr. McGuinty was upbeat Friday while visiting the site of a new Vale project in Sudbury, where the Liberals are gathering for a weekend conference.

The north’s natural resource boom is the envy of the world and will bring jobs and prosperity to the region, he said.

“I wish we had a few more Sudburys around the province,” Mr. McGuinty said. “Frankly, you’re doing so well and experiencing so much growth. So we’ll ask ourselves what can we learn from the examples that are right in front of our eyes here in Sudbury.”

But he shifted to a more defensive stance when faced with pointed questions about Ontario Northland, and whether he planned to privatize any transit systems in Southern Ontario.

“I know that it’s human nature to make an immediate comparison, but I would argue that’s kind of an apples to-oranges comparison when you take a look at the cost per traveller,” he said.

Ontario Northland’s losses have only grown since he formed government in 2003, and that’s just not sustainable when the province is facing a $15-billion deficit, he explained.

“In an ideal world we might be able to keep doing that,” he said. “But we don’t live in that world, we live in this world. People are saying, ‘Make sure that you build more spaces for our kids in colleges and universities, make sure we continue to invest in more homecare and long-term beds.’ ”

For the rest of this article, please go to the National Post website: http://www.nationalpost.com/McGuintyto+defend+budget+north/6829737/story.html

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